Car and Driver made its rep in the sixties, and it took some colorful writing along with some blatant stunts to cement it. Few are more (in)famous than the Opel Kadett assassination, a so-called review of a 1968 Kadett LS 1.5L wagon in the February 1968 issue. I’ve decided to be as bold as C/D in its heyday, and risk the copyright gods’ wrath by scanning and posting the whole review here. It needs to be done, because like so many memories of the far distant past, a re-reading makes it clear what a sophomoric undertaking it really was. And a very blatantly contrived one.
Before we (re)read the piece and consider some of the highlights of this famous piece of slander journalism entertainment, let’s consider what went on behind the scenes, as these snippets from the book “50 Years With Car and Driver” by Marty Padgett make clear:
“We didn’t care. We were hot”. That about sums it all up. Never mind that the review itself is painfully stilted, and reads in part like something from a college magazine parody. Let’s just say that the Opel was hardly a brilliant car, but it was an honest one, and there were no pretenses to its purpose in life. C/D resorted to some pretty desperate measures to fill up the overly-long pages of the times with its diatribe:
Visibility, considering all that glass, should be excellent – but it’s not. The rear-view mirror stands in the way of a good 30% of forward vision, and front quarter vision is reduced, on the driver’s side, by the outside mirror and the vent window moldings. And the driver sits tall inside the car – so tall, in fact, that rearward vision is obstructed by the roof”
Boo-hoo! Those same C/D swashbucklers who would drown a tester in a flooded road in Baja and whatever else they came up with to entertain their loyal followers couldn’t see out of the boxy and glassy Kadett! Yet they repeatedly refer to it as “the car of the tomorrow” Wonder what they’d think of the typical car of today’s visibility.
Ok, I’m taking it too seriously. Probably because I just don’t find it very funny. It has nothing to with any latent affections for the Kadett; I see its shortcomings all too clearly. It’s just so stilted and contrived and…dare I say it?…badly written: “it’s an electric car without the batteries” …”a limp, unending mass of tapioca”…”it stands for nothing, affirms nothing”…”not terrifying because it’s so bad, but because it looms evil-filled as the car we’ll all be driving a few years from now”. Right…
By the way, the Kadett’s 14 second 0-60 time was excellent for the times; and this was with the 1.5 L engine, not the 1.9. The 27 second run to eighty may seem a bit lengthy, but don’t ask how long a Beetle would have taken, if it ever got there. The Kadett 1.5 was hardly designed to be a high-speed stormer.
The assassination review has become a popular pastime for auto journalists; Jeremy Clarkson has taken it to new heights, although it’s all-too obvious what he’s up to. When it came out of left field at C/D, it was a bit of a shock. Enough so, that GM pulled its advertisement budget, for awhile, anyway.
I’ve indulged in a hit or two myself; my harsh and colorful review of the gen2 2008 Scion Xb, one of the first reviews of that car, went viral on the web, and may have played a part in that car’s initial weak reception. Or not. But at least I gave credit where credit was due.
I can’t quite say that for two of Robert Farago’s Reviews at TTAC: His blast of the 2008 Focus hinged largely on the tape wrapped around the under-hood wires. And perhaps his last review there, of the Lincoln MKZ, reflected the state of his burnout that was almost complete at that point. He was gone a week or two later; a colorful finale.
Some think I’m still at it; giving the 1977 Seville CC the Deadly Sin status didn’t exactly win me new friends. Which reminds me…we haven’t done the gen2 Seville yet. Maybe there’s still time to make amends. Maybe.